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Harrison Ford is prison escapee Dr. Richard Kimble, a Chicago surgeon falsely convicted of killing his wife and determined to prove his innocence by leading his pursuers to the one-armed man who actually committed the crime. Tommy Lee Jones is Sam Gerard, an unrelenting bloodhound of a U.S. Marshal. They are hunter and hunted. And as directed by Andrew Davis (Under Siege), their nonstop chase has one exhilarating speed: all-out.
For more about The Fugitive and the The Fugitive Blu-ray release, see the The Fugitive Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 4, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Sela Ward, Joe Pantoliano, Jeroen Krabbé, Julianne Moore
Director: Andrew Davis
» See full cast & crew
The Fugitive Blu-ray Review
One of the best films of the 1990s could use an overhaul on Blu.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 4, 2008
Your fugitive is Dr. Richard Kimble. Go get him.
I remember first buying The Fugitive on DVD way back during the infancy of that format. It's become a staple on home video and television, so it is no surprise that it was one of the first Blu-ray discs released. It's also no accident that the movie is so ingrained into culture, because this is a darn good movie, one of the best of the 1990s, in fact, if I may be so bold. Based on the old 1960s television series starring David Janssen, this 1993 remake is a classic in its own right, memorable for several now-iconic sequences and also for performances by two of the finer actors of that decade, Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones (who earned himself a best supporting actor Oscar for his effort in this movie). Written by one of my favorite writers/directors, David Twohy (director of Pitch Black and The Arrival), the film garnered several other Academy Award nominations, including best picture and best score for James Newton Howard's epic and exciting work.
Noted vascular surgeon Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford, The Devil's Own) has been accused of a crime he says he didn't commit. Returning home from emergency surgery, he finds his wife Helen (Sela Ward, The Day After Tomorrow) nearly dead, the victim of a brutal attack. Kimble is believed to have murdered her as he's the sole beneficiary of her will, not to mention incriminating evidence against him presented at his trial. He's found guilty and sentenced to death. A spectacular accident involving "Con Bus" and a train allows Kimble to escape during prisoner transit, and U.S. Marshall Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones, No Country For Old Men) leads the manhunt. Under hot pursuit from both the U.S. Marshalls and the Chicago City police department, Kimble begins a frenetic search for the one- armed man he knows killed his wife, the search a foray onto the streets of Chicago and into the hospitals with which he is so familiar. It is on this quest that he attempts to unravel a mystery that goes much deeper than the simple murder of his wife. Will he clear his name in time, or will Gerard bring him to justice before Kimble can prove his innocence and take the lid off of a major conspiracy?
Not only did critics lavish The Fugitive with critical praise, but audiences also found the movie appealing, flocking to theaters and forking over nearly $184,000,000 at the box office to see it. The movie has also found widespread success on the home video market, as it became one of the first DVD titles available in the fall of 1997, and is again now one of the early Blu-ray titles. There are plenty of things to like about The Fugitive, although moviegoers who grew up on the television series may find the proceedings here lacking in comparison to a show that spanned four seasons and placed the fugitive in numerous locales with dozens of fine supporting actors. Still, even with that base for comparison, I found the 1993 big-screen adaptation to be a fantastic film, one featuring more than its fair share of memorable characters, set pieces, action sequences, and production values. Despite its somewhat straightforward direction, this is a great film to look at, one whose pacing is second to none. The story never dulls, the action never gets too feverish or too slow, and the primary characters are so well drawn that following the conclusion of the film's 130 heart-pounding minutes, we feel like we know them as well as any that take several films or more, or a television series for that matter, to develop. Both Ford and Jones play their roles as well as can be expected, and just about every supporting actor turns in a fine performance as well, notably from Joe Pantoliano (Memento) and Richard Riehle (Office Space).
The Fugitive Blu-ray, Video Quality
Warner Brothers presents The Fugitive on Blu-ray in a high-definition, MPEG-2 encoded, 1.85:1 framed transfer that's mostly abysmal. This particular transfer offers viewers a soft, undefined image that lacks detail. Colors are muted (though likely intentionally so), poor compression rears its ugly head on several occasions, and the image is just bland and sometimes even painful to look at. It's such a shame, because the movie itself is outstanding. I can generally overlook a flawed transfer of a good movie, letting the movie suck me into its world, forgetting all the tangible elements that accompany a presentation, but this one had me scratching my head at times, shocked and disappointed by the low quality of the presentation, and aghast at some scenes that are downright atrocious in presentation. I haven't seen a Blu-ray transfer this bad since Young Guns. Even my non-techie wife noticed this one was subpar. The quality definitely picks up a bit as the movie wears on, but it's still rather dull and flat, and detail is moderate at best. There is a definite lack of definition and attention to fine detail evident throughout. Kimble's hair, especially after the train wreck, often looks like a glob of color rather than fine, individual strands of hair. Black levels are moderately good at best, and dark scenes are plagued by extreme amounts of grain. Some bad compression is present throughout, noted primarily on straight, shiny objects (especially on chrome-colored lines on cars), looking blocky and chunky rather than straight and natural. Granted, director Andrew Davis, director of Under Siege, has employed a similar style in both that film and this one, a bleak, muted, and "grainy" look, a look that definitely doesn't lend itself very well to a "pretty picture." Still, there's nothing to be excited about with this transfer. The experience is best described as resulting in a downer, saddened that such a wonderful movie appears as such a poor looking transfer on Blu-ray, no matter how much of it is intentional on the part of director Andrew Davis and how much is the result of a bad disc (and I believe the latter to be the main culprit).
The Fugitive Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Fugitive is brought to justice on Blu-ray with a paltry, though certainly lively and acceptable, Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix. While for the most part good, it left me to wonder just how much better a lossless option would have been (in those rare instances I wasn't crying over the pitiful video transfer). This one is very active nonetheless, working the surrounds overtime, as well as the subwoofer. The opening title sequence is nothing if impressive, making for a very enjoyable opening aural experience. Bass really rocks, even if it is a tad muffled and less defined than we're used to hearing in the top-notch lossless mixes. The bus crash and train wreck are, as usual, fantastic demo material, or at least they were at one point in time. It's been far surpassed in these past years, but I remember when this scene was the hot scene to show off at the home theater stores selling then top-of-the-line equipment. I didn't note any problem with dialogue reproduction or levels, and I never had any issues discerning what was happening because of muffled or muted dialogue. For a lossy mix, and one that's been around for a long time, I was impressed. Granted, it's been several years since I screened this film on DVD, but having seen it multiple times on both that format and on VHS, not to mention once at the theater, I can safely say that, despite the lack of a high-definition track, this is the best I've ever heard The Fugitive sound.
The Fugitive Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
One thing Warner did right with this release was to include all the special features from the most recent DVD special edition. Leading things off is a feature-length commentary track with director Andrew Davis and star Tommy Lee Jones. The track kicks off with a brief discussion about the visual style o the film, praising the look much more than I did, especially with regards to the look of the opening titles of the film. Andrew Davis handles the bulk of the track with Jones chiming on every so often, and there are many long pauses and uncomfortable moments of dead air throughout. Nevertheless, there is quite a bit of good information to be heard, such as the fact that the entire interrogation scene was ad libbed by Harrison Ford. Andrew Davis manages to describe the action on-screen but doing so in a way that conveys more information than what we're privy to just by watching the film. This is a good listen for fans of the film.
Next is Introduction With the Film's Stars and Creators (480p, 1:50) briefly tells us that on March 9, 2001, Andrew Davis, Tommy Lee Jones, and Harrison Ford sat down to share their memories about The Fugitive. This is a very funny short piece, especially the interaction between Davis and Jones, with Ford providing more standard comments separate from the other two participants. On the Run With the Fugitive (480p, 23:04) features the cast and crew discussing shooting the film on-location in Chicago, the importance of casting the film properly, and the reaction to the wonderful script and the many overhauls it went through, including writing the final act of the film "on the fly" before reaching the final product we know and love. This proved to be a very enjoyable feature and fans of the film will find themselves entertained with the information it conveys as well as its pace. Derailed: Anatomy of a Train Wreck (480p, 8:53) takes an in-depth look at the creation of this famous scene. Finally, the film's theatrical trailer (480p, 2:00) rounds out the special features on this disc.
The Fugitive Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
A movie packed with iconic scenes, excellent direction, an engrossing story, great acting, and always watchable content, The Fugitive is one of the best movies of the 1990s. The film has rightly earned itself as spot as a staple of home video collection and cable television screenings, making it a mass-consumed movie, although one that is anything but typical of your everyday movie with widespread appeal. This is both a smart, thanking man's thriller and an enjoyable ride all at the same time, a rare combination in Hollywood, and the mark of a great film. The Fugitive is definitely a movie every collector needs in their library, and it's a shame that it does not offer movie lovers a better presentation. Featuring a subpar transfer and antiquated Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix, the movie is in dire need of an overhaul. The supplements are good, but nothing you haven't seen if you have the most recent DVD release. The movie itself comes highly recommended, but I'd advise purchasing this Blu-ray only if you don't already own a copy on another format.
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